Friday 18 October 2019

Keenan putting Sevens experience to good use

Hugo Keenan. Photo: Sportsfile
Hugo Keenan. Photo: Sportsfile

Hugo Keenan made his Leinster Rugby debut against Zebre in November 2016, a cameo as a replacement in the final 10 minutes. It was to be his only appearance for Leinster that season.

Similarly, the following November, Keenan was introduced from the bench in the Guinness PRO14 clash against Glasgow Warriors. Again, it was his sole feature of the campaign.

Last year, he donned the Leinster shirt three times, starting all three games and scoring his first senior try in the December win over Dragons.

This season, he's determined to hold on to that coveted blue No 15 jersey for as long as he possibly can, something that can only be achieved by consistently improving his game with every opportunity.

"I'd like to think I'm building with each game that I'm playing," says the former Blackrock College man.

"I had three starts last year and then had a bit of a run of injuries but, through those games, you get more used to the pace of the game, to the atmosphere, to the crowds and what PRO14 rugby is about."

Having spent some time on the Sevens circuit with the Irish team, he values the skills he learned in that adaptation of the game and views them as being integral to giving him a point of difference that, hopefully, will stand out for the coaches the more he plays.

"Leinster play good running rugby and you obviously need distributors and ball-players in that. You can't always rely on the out-half to be that ball-player," the full-back explains.

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"We're looking for a second pair of hands to come in as second receiver, first receiver sometimes, varying up the point of attack. It fits in well to my game and a few of the other guys' games.

"I have to put a good bit down to the sevens. I played on the wing a lot in school and I played out-half with the sevens team so you get your hands on the ball, you get a lot of involvement there.

"You're distributing good 10-/15-metre passes so it increases your skill and gets you comfortable on the ball."

Guiding

With players away on international duty, it is an ideal window for younger players to show their worth but there is certain things that Keenan will miss about having those players around, such as a guiding word, when needed, from more experienced pros, like fellow full-back Rob Kearney.

Though, he'll be hoping for more direct competition with Kearney when the Louth man is back from Japan.

"He's a great person to learn off but he's also a good teacher. He likes taking you to the side and having a chat and you can go to him with a few clips asking what your positioning is like or what you can do better here and there.

"There's lads away so it's a good chance to stake your claim on the jersey and make it as hard as possible for them to come back in and take that 15 jersey off you again.

"Getting in a consistent role there and playing a solid game. That's what I was hoping for."

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